Gillian Shenon

Just another site

Category: Uncategorized

My First Indian Wedding

I had the great pleasure and honor of assisting Priya and Nikul with their wedding planning in August at Nella Terra Cellars. This would be my first Indian wedding and I had a lot to learn, most especially about the Indian culture. These vibrant photos were captured beautifully by Yuliya Molitvenik of Yuliya M. Photography.

The getting-ready process was vastly different from that in American culture. For starters, the henna decoration occurred two days before the ceremony, and the getting-ready itself took far longer than usual. I was fascinated with process. The layers and layers of clothing and adornment and ceremony around all of it… each step required the assistance of many family members. Finally, Priya and Nik were ready.






The celebration began with a Baraat ceremony,  the marriage process which is welcomed by the bride’s family. The Baraat procession was led by a decorated white horse, Nik, his groomsmen and family members. The Baraat musicians danced along to the bhangra music. It was an incredible sight to behold.









The procession made its way down to the ceremony area and wedding mandap, which is the covered structure where the ceremony would take place. Nik was greeted by Priya’s family for the customary foot-washing ceremony.



Many, many, MANY ceremonies followed, and finally, hours later, Priya and Nik were married.




cul·ture ˈkəlCHər/  noun

1. the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.

synonyms: the arts, the humanities, intellectual achievement;  literature, music, painting, philosophy, the performing arts


I had a thought several months ago about the direction in which I would like my business to go, and began to consider who I am, how I live, and what best represents me. I came to the conclusion pretty quickly, with a word I think best defines me: bohemian. I have always lived my life moving and thinking outside the box, and I like to be free. I am a free spirit. What also occurred to me, in doing a little further introspection, was the type of gatherings that delight me most, whether they be my own, or others’ celebrations. I decided to pursue design of a series of styled photo shoots that would help me to share my vision and great love of the loose, “boho chic” style gathering, whether it be a wedding or otherwise. I have since designed a dozen shoots (!!) both locally in Marin, San Francisco, and down in my hometown of Woodside, as well as several outside the area: Truckee, Ojai, Big Sur, South Freeport, Maine and Basalt, Colorado, where dear friends have graciously offered their lovely properties for this experience. I am finding this extremely gratifying and the most creative I have ever been throughout my twenty years working as a designer.

Typically, I begin my thought process with one item or prop, and for this first shoot I was inspired by a rope chair swing that I purchased for my nieces to play on in my yard. I had a vision of this rope swing chair suspended over a dining table as the “chandelier,” with a glass hurricane as the source of light, and we’d weave vines throughout the macrame. The completely amazing and talented Natalie Bowen brought my vision to the next level. I think the best part about working on these shoots is the inclusion of several artists in my community. So much of the work I do is independent and the shoots allow for terrific collaboration.


Installing the rope swing chair, confirming the height. It works!

Another key participant in this effort is one of the tip-top photographers in the Bay Area. Meg Smith brought my vision to life. (Please note that the photos below are not Meg Smith’s images, but previews of the shoot taken with our iPhone).

With all of this exciting development I am creating a section on my website that I am naming “Culture.”  I was mulling this idea around in my head and suddenly thought Culture, hmm… and researched the proper meaning of the word. I like it. Culture, by definition, is “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.” Given this is all a big collective effort and we are manifesting our artistic achievement collectively, it feels like the perfect word.   

Once we are able to share the full set of Meg’s images you will find them under the “Culture” tab on my site. Please stay tuned!







Last Fall I visited Campovida in Hopland to check it out not only as a potential wedding venue, but for myself, to settle my curiosities.  I think the last time I was in Hopland was almost twenty years ago, maybe for a hops festival?

I absolutely fell in love with Campovida with its old barn, tangled secret gardens, and 500-plus year old tree.  In all seriousness, you can rent the real estate around the tree for $500!


Campovida has always been in family hands, and has had its origins protected.  It began in the mid 1800’s as part of a Mexican land grant, encompassing over 1,300 acres.  In 1890 a timber baron purchased the land and developed the property as it exists today, constructing all of the buildings.  In the 1940’s the land was acquired by a hop broker, and in 1958 Bernard Fetzer bought a home on the property and began growing grapes.  His eleven children took over in 1981 after his death and created Fetzer Winery and eventually a world-renowned food and wine education center (Valley Oaks) and the organic gardens.  Most recently, in 2010, Ann Beusdinck and Gary Breen took over as owners and Campovida became a community hub for Hopland as well as a prized destination event site.



While I was touring the property I was walking alongside another group of people, one whom worked for thirty years at the Fetzer Winery, so it was really interesting hearing his perspective on how the winery operated and of all that had remained untouched over the years.  I think that’s what is most special about Campovida: you can sense the ancient quality of the trees and gardens that surround you; it almost feels antique.



I am working with a couple who I knew would really respond to Campovida.  At first they passed due to a hesitation about the distance for their guests, primarily from North Carolina, to travel two hours north on 101 from San Francisco.  But a few weeks went by and suddenly they motivated on their own and alerted me they were going up to see the property.  And the rest, as they say, is history!

Rachel and Erik will celebrate their marriage here at Campovida on November 1, 2014.  Today I went back through my photos to share them, and became curious of the date when I first visited – it was October 19, 2013, which means this is almost exactly the condition the gardens will be for their wedding this November.  We cannot wait!



Giving Thanks at the Holidays

In the spirit of giving at the holidays I find that my favorite thing is to think of a gift that not only will be enjoyed by friends, clients and colleagues alike, but also support a friend’s local business.  This year my gifts included the two newest spice rubs from Just Cook Foods: Close to Curry and Gimme Steak blends ( and Coco Lavender and Rose Chili cacao truffles that another friend developed during the past year (more on this as she further establishes her product in the marketplace).



My two incredible office associates, Lauren and Ashley (without whom I truly could not have accomplished such a task), worked behind the scenes stamping and packaging 50+ holiday treats.


bags with logo

bags for chocolate


I want to emphasize again how much I count on not only these two, but a pretty wonderful range of friends across both my interior design and event production businesses who provide resources and continue to support me throughout the year.  I am really that grateful.

Here’s to a prosperous 2013 for all of us!


On August 18th Kelly and Victor were married at Rockin’ H Ranch, a private property along the Petaluma River.  Guests processed from the main home on the property where the ceremony and cocktail hour were held, along the runway to the airplane hangar.  The reception was held within this unusual space where we had the Pizza Politana oven at one side of the hangar doors and the sun setting behind our prop plane at the other.

Escort cards, indicating the table assignments, were nestled in a tray of dried green peas – a subtle reference to the Italian meal to come.

Kelly’s clever idea to paint farm animals white and attach craft paper name tags, served as the place cards.

Bridesmaids photo op!

A sunset kiss along the runway.

Happily ever after…


Photo credit: Ksenia Nesterova Professional Photography


Danielle and Patrick celebrated their nuptials at the Sequoia Retreat Center among the redwoods in beautiful Ben Lomond, California, over Labor Day weekend.  Upon our final site visit to check status of the barn’s construction, we were vaguely optimistic (!), knowing there was a first event scheduled before ours.  Phew, we made it!  (See previous blog post “Barn Raising” to see early pictures of the barn.)

Danielle had the clever idea to re-use painter’s drop cloths as the table linens, and had napkins made using different patterns of indigo fabric.  Erica Lewis (Erica Rose Design) provided the floral arrangements in keeping with Danielle’s request to reflect the natural flora and fauna of the Santa Cruz mountains.

Danielle made another sage decision to seat all of her guests inside the barn which proved to create a very intimate environment; people began to dance at their tables before the real dance party even began.  The DJ was spinning vinyl – it was that kind of a party!

A first dance…

More of Erica’s creative genius: a bridesmaid’s bouquet.



I paid a visit to David Skinner’s home studio in Venice Beach last spring where he lives in one of those enviable bungalows a block from the beach.  (Funny enough, same walk-street where my sister lived years ago.)  I am fortunate to have two of David’s landscapes in my home and was anxious to meet him and learn about his process.  As it turns out, David is a father of two, surfer, and generally very cool guy.  We learned we have friends in common from Homer, Alaska!


David let me know that he’d be coming up to the Bay to showcase his paintings at the Sausalito Art Festival over Labor Day weekend. He explained that out of the 3,000 or more applicants, only 250 artists are selected.  David’s had a booth at the Sausalito Art Festival for eight years – impressive!


I told him that it is my personal endeavor to collect another seven of his landscapes so I can install them as a series on my wall, to which David said, “get out!”  Yep, I am a true fan.




Here is the link to see more of David’s work:


On June 16th Traci and Brett celebrated their wedding at Farina restaurant – 81 degrees in San Francisco, truly something to remember!Image


Theirs was the first wedding celebration at Farina and it was completely wonderful.Image

The ceremony was up on the rooftop, then down to the restaurant for a scrumptious dinner.  Image

ImageHand-made handkerchief pasta with Genovese basil and almond pesto was part of the menu, with little jars of the pesto at each place setting as favors.Image



Back to the rooftop for dessert…Image

No, that’s not the moon, but a Geronimo-style balloon!Image

And the perfect night was finished with everyone dancing back down in the restaurant.  Quite a crowd gathered on the sidewalk outside the windows of Farina, dancing to the DJ’s tunes.  Oh, what a night!


“Mississippi” is my favorite neighborhood in Portland, Oregon.  The Meadow (3731 North Mississippi Avenue, Portland OR 97227) is something to behold: every chocolate known to man, every sea salt you can dream of, and a splendid collection of bitters line the perimeter walls, topped off by a collection of unusual flowers at the center island.  Ha!  There’s also one in New York (523 Hudson Street).  But of course!

I just think that Portlanders do it differently – their sense of designing a space and inventiveness for product – they are ideas people and I value coming across such unique products and spaces given the volume of stores that I frequent.

Another great up-and-coming street nearby is Williams, and I encourage everyone to take a gander.

Coastal Love

Late September wedding for Chris and Christina, who I like to call C and C, at La Costanera at Montara Beach in Half Moon Bay.


This is one of my most favorite beaches along the Northern California coast.  I can get a little lost in this environment and have to remind myself that I’m actually there to work!

Met with Erica Lewis (Erica Rose Design) and shared an instinct to use the native flowers for our decor and bridal bouquet.  Sure to be lovely!